Diamonds 101: Carat vs Karat

Carat vs karat: what's the difference?

Introduction

In this paper, we'll explain the differences between carat and karat, two terms which carry different

meanings but are often confused.

In brief, carat is a unit of weight used for diamonds and other gemstones, whereas karat is a unit of

purity used for gold.

Carat

A carat is a metric unit of weight used to measure precious gemstones, particularly diamonds.

One carat equals 200mg (or a fifth of a gram), so a diamond weighing one gram would be five

carats. If the weight is below one carat, the measurement referred to as either a fraction (such as a

quarter, half or eighth of a carat) or as a decimal (for example, 0.50ct).

Carat is one of the 'four Cs' used to determine the quality of a diamond. The others are cut, clarity

and color. The most valued diamonds are those that have good clarity and are colorless, but size

does make a difference.

The history of the term dates back to ancient times, when traders used carob seeds on balance scales

to determine the weight of gemstones. As time passed, the world evolved into carat and an exact

weight was assigned.

Karat

Karat is a term used to indicate gold purity. It's based on the percentage of gold compared to alloy

in a piece of gold.

Pure gold is 24-karat, but because gold is a very soft metal it is not able to used practically as

jewelry in its purest form.

As such, it is normally mixed with metal alloys which vary depending on the gold colour. Yellow

gold alloy is a mix of copper (40% to 75%), zinc (1 to 15%) and pure sterling (10 to 60%), with

traces of a de-oxidant such as silicon dioxide or boron. White gold alloy is a mix of copper (around

40%) , nickel (around 40%), zinc (from 10 to 20%), sterling (from 5 to 10% ), with a trace of de-
oxidant. There are also alloy mixes with palladium instead of nickel, which has become more

popular recently as nickel-free jewelry has become more widely available on the market, even in

high-end jewelry.

Each karat indicates 1/24th of the whole, so if a piece of jewelry is made of metal that is 18 parts

gold and six parts copper, it is 18-karat gold.

The karat is normally responsible for determining the relative value of a piece of gold. In most

cases, 10k is lowest purity that can still be considered gold and 18k is the highest purity commonly

available, but you can find out more about gold value in another white paper.

Conclusion

The differences between carat and karat are easy to understand, just perhaps difficult to remember.

Remember that while the value of gold depends almost entirely on its karats, the number of carats in

a diamond is just one of several factors determining the stone's quality and value.